Economic Calendar

Friday, May 4, 2012

Samsung’s New Galaxy S Smartphone Raises Heat on Apple’s IPhone

By Jonathan Browning and Jun Yang - May 4, 2012 8:46 AM GMT+0700

Samsung Electronics Co. (005930), the world’s largest mobile-phone maker last quarter, unveiled a new handset in the Galaxy S series, intensifying a battle with Apple Inc. (AAPL) for leadership in the smartphone market.

The Galaxy S III, running Google Inc. (GOOG)’s latest Android operating system, features increased voice-command options to compete with the Siri voice software on the latest Apple iPhone. Other functions include an eye sensor system that prevents the screen from dimming, Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung said at an event in London yesterday.

The Galaxy devices helped Samsung overtake Nokia Oyj (NOK1V) as the worlds’ top handset seller for the first time in the first quarter and regain the lead in the $219 billion smartphone market from Apple, also the electronics maker’s biggest chip and display customer. Cupertino, California-based Apple’s newest iPhone was unveiled seven months ago.

“In terms of hardware specifications, the new model meets expectations,” Kim Hyung Sik, a Seoul-based analyst at Taurus Investment Securities Co., said by phone.

Samsung shares, which rose 9 percent in April, fell 1.9 percent to 1,375,000 as of 10:05 a.m. in Seoul, compared with a 0.7 percent fall in the benchmark Kospi index.

“The stock had been moving on all the upbeat news related to smartphones and their Galaxy phones lately, and now it’s in a transitional period looking for new momentum,” Kim said.

The Galaxy S III is a successor to the Galaxy S II, whose global sales reached 20 million in February, about 10 months after its debut and about seven months faster than its predecessor.

Premium Price

“Your lead technology is always important and this will be the flagship device,” Stephen Taylor, who runs corporate branding for Samsung in Europe, said in an interview. “It’s not just about hardware moving forward, it’s about the software products that interact with customers.”

The handset will be priced at a premium to its predecessor, Taylor said. “The U.K. is pivotal and Europe will get the device first.”

The handset will be available in the U.K. at the end of May. The S III will be available in markets including the U.S. and South Korea by the end of the summer, as well as on all three carriers in China, he said.

Samsung sold 93.5 million handsets in the first quarter, 36 percent more than a year earlier, Strategy Analytics said April 27. Nokia shipped 82.7 million, down 24 percent, and Apple sold 35.1 million units, an 89 percent increase from last year.

Samsung sold 44.5 million smartphones in the three months ended in March, according to the researcher’s data.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jun Yang in Seoul at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Tighe at


Asian Stocks Drop 2nd Day on U.S. Data, Commodity Prices

By Jonathan Burgos and Adam Haigh - May 4, 2012 8:22 AM GMT+0700

Asian stocks fell for a second day, with a regional benchmark index paring its weekly advance, as U.S. service industries expanded less than forecast and falling commodity prices weakened the earnings outlook for exporters and raw-material producers.

Samsung Electronics Co. (005930), the world’s No. 1 mobile-phone maker by sales, fell 1.9 percent in Seoul. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest mining company, lost 1 percent in Sydney. Gloucester Coal Ltd. sank 2 percent on speculation the price of fuel used in power stations may not recover from an 18-month low. Ascendas Real Estate Investment Trust slid 4.3 percent in Singapore after the industrial landlord raised S$298.5 million ($240 million) by selling shares at a discount.

“The U.S. data was quite disappointing and it seems like it’s now catching up with the rest of the world,” said Stan Shamu, a market strategist at IG Markets in Melbourne, a provider of trading services in stocks, bonds and commodities. “Commodities prices have weakened, so the likes of BHP will be negatively affected.”

The MSCI Asia Pacific Excluding Japan Index dropped 0.4 percent to 440.68 as of 9:17 a.m. in Hong Kong, with about three shares sliding for every two that rose. The regional gauge is heading for its first weekly advance in five weeks following moves to stimulate economic growth in Australia and amid signs manufacturing output in U.S. and China is improving.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index (AS51) decreased 0.5 percent, while South Korea’s Kospi Index dropped 0.6 percent. Singapore’s Straits Times Index lost 0.3 percent. Japanese markets are closed today for a holiday.

U.S. Economy

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index were little changed today. The gauge declined 0.8 percent in New York yesterday as U.S. service industries grew at a slower pace than projected in April.

Exporters declined as the services industry data, combined with a report that showed consumer confidence among Americans fell to a two-month low last week, added to signs the recovery of the world’s largest economy may be faltering.

The reports overshadowed data showing jobless claims fell to 365,000 in the week ended April 28, a one-month low. A Labor Department report today may say the U.S. added 160,000 jobs in April, compared with a gain of 120,000 the previous month, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Raw-material producers posted the biggest decline among the 10 industry groups in the MSCI Asia Pacific Excluding Japan Index. (MXAPJ) The London Metal Exchange Index of prices for six industrial metals including copper and aluminum fell 0.9 percent yesterday. The Thomson Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index of raw materials also retreated 0.9 percent. Oil traded near a two-week low.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Excluding Japan Index rose 12.6 percent this year through yesterday, compared with a 10.7 percent gain by the S&P 500 and a 5.3 percent advance by the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Stocks in the Asian benchmark are valued at 12.7 times estimated earnings on average, compared with a multiple of 13.2 for the S&P 500 and 10.8 times for the Stoxx 600.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jonathan Burgos in Singapore at; Adam Haigh in Sydney at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John McCluskey at


Euro Set for Biggest Weekly Decline in a Month

By Masaki Kondo - May 4, 2012 7:58 AM GMT+0700

The euro was set for the biggest weekly decline in a month amid concern leadership changes at elections in France and Greece this weekend could derail the region’s austerity efforts.

The 17-nation currency was 0.2 percent from an almost two- year low versus the British pound before a private report that may confirm the region’s output of services and manufacturing shrank for a third month. The Dollar Index was poised for a weekly gain before a U.S. data forecast to show employment increased last month in the world’s biggest economy.

Newly-minted 2 cent euro coins fall into a container during manufacture at the Bank of Greece's Printing Works Department and Mint in Athens. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

“Markets are concerned about what new leaders will do,” said Lee Wai Tuck, a currency strategist at Forecast Pte in Singapore. Euro demand may see “a more negative impact because of some uncertainties ahead.”

The euro was little changed at $1.3147 as of 8:48 a.m. in Singapore from the close in New York yesterday. It has lost 0.8 percent this week, the biggest slide since the period ended April 6. The common currency fell 0.1 percent to 105.40 yen. It was at 81.22 pence after falling to 81.03 yesterday, the lowest since June 2010. The dollar was little changed at 80.16 yen.

Japan’s markets are shut today for a public holiday.

France will have a presidential election and Greece will have parliamentary elections, both scheduled for May 6.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Francois Hollande wrap up their campaigns today. Hollande has called for a re-negotiation of the budget pact crafted by European leaders in March, saying it needs to place more emphasis on growth. He has rejected a Sarkozy plan to raise sales taxes to fund a cut in payroll charges.

Anti-Bailout Parties

In Greece, neither of two major political parties that have supported the nation’s international bailouts -- New Democracy and Socialist Pasok -- is likely to win an outright majority in the 300-seat parliament.

The French and Greek votes “add to the uncertainty” in the euro area, said Kurt Magnus, executive director of foreign- exchange sales in Sydney at Nomura Holdings Inc.

A euro-area composite index for services and manufacturing industries was at 47.4 in April, below the 50 level that indicates contraction, according to economist estimates before London-based Markit Economics releases its final reading today.

“Any downward revisions from the preliminary reading should maintain expectations for lower yields and a weaker euro,” BNP Paribas SA strategists, including Steven Saywell, head of foreign-exchange strategy for Europe, wrote in a research note referring to the European composite index. “As such we reiterate our euro-dollar call for $1.28 by the end of this quarter.”

The Dollar Index (DXY), which IntercontinentalExchange Inc. uses to track the greenback against the currencies of six major U.S. trading partners, was little changed at 79.214 and has risen 0.7 percent since April 27.

U.S. employers added 160,000 jobs last month after a 120,000 increase in March, the median estimate of economists showed before the Labor Department report due today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Masaki Kondo in Singapore at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rocky Swift at


RBA Cuts Growth, Inflation Forecasts on Weaker Jobs

By Michael Heath - May 4, 2012 8:37 AM GMT+0700

The Reserve Bank of Australia cut growth and inflation forecasts as weak labor and housing markets keep price gains in check, underscoring its decision this week to cut interest rates by the most in three years.

“Labor market conditions have continued to be on the soft side to date, with large increases in employment in mining and some service industries roughly offset by declines in the manufacturing, hospitality and retail sectors,” the central bank said today in its quarterly monetary policy statement. “A recovery in housing construction is unlikely in the near term.”

The central business district is seen illuminated at dawn alongside the Harbor Bridge in Sydney. Growth in Australia, the only major developed economy to avoid a recession over the past 20 years, is weakening as output slows in China, its biggest export market. Photographer: Ian Waldie/Bloomberg

The RBA sees average growth of 3 percent in 2012, down from its February estimate of 3.5 percent. Consumer prices will rise 2.5 percent in the year to December, from a previous prediction of 3 percent; underlying inflation is predicted at 2.25 percent from a previous 2.75 percent, the central bank said. The estimates are based on the overnight cash rate target remaining at 3.75 percent, it said.

The revisions reflect RBA Governor Glenn Stevens’s decision three days ago to slash the benchmark rate by half a percentage point to a two-year low, even as most economists polled forecast a quarter-point reduction. The RBA is trying to buttress a housing market in which prices have fallen for five straight quarters, bolster employment as a high currency hurts non- resource industries and boost confidence that has weakened among consumers who are saving more.

The Australian dollar was at $1.0259 as of 11:32 a.m., little changed from before the RBA statement. It was heading for a 2 percent drop since April 27, which would be the biggest weekly slide this year.

‘Subdued Growth’

“The assumed high level of the exchange rate and a weak short-term outlook for building construction are expected to result in subdued growth outside of the mining sector in the near term,” the RBA said. “Growth in household spending moderated at the end of 2011 and partial indicators suggest that it remained soft in early 2012.”

Australia’s four biggest banks are trying to guard margins against further erosion from elevated wholesale funding costs, by passing through less of the central bank’s rate cuts to mortgage holders. The RBA lowered rates twice late last year by 25 basis points.

The RBA said today that its half percentage-point cut this week was made “in order to deliver the appropriate level” of borrowing rates. “The board judged that it was desirable for financial conditions to be easier than those which had prevailed in December, and that this required a 50 basis point reduction in the cash rate.”

Tradables Inflation

The nation’s unemployment rate has held at about 5.2 percent for the past six months, less than half the level in Europe, even as the currency’s strength hurts manufacturing and tourism.

The central bank, explaining the revision of the inflation outlook, said it expects the decline in the price of international goods to diminish given the exchange rate has been little changed for a year. A weakening in domestically produced inflation will rely on moderate wage growth due to a weaker labor market and improved productivity as companies respond to the heightened competitive pressure caused by the exchange rate, it said.

The central bank described inflation last quarter as “unusually low.”

Budget Cuts

The economy will also have to absorb the biggest fiscal contraction as a proportion of gross domestic product since at least the fiscal year that started in July 1953. The government is seeking to return the budget to surplus in the fiscal year beginning July 1. It will deliver the budget May 8.

The RBA noted the plan, saying “public final demand is also expected to grow at well below-trend rates over the forecast period as both federal and state governments undertake fiscal consolidation.”

Australia’s economy is struggling to accelerate, unexpectedly posting back-to-back trade deficits as coal and metal exports slumped. The RBA said today that “exports have been revised lower, largely reflecting a reassessment of the ability of mining companies to utilize new transport and port capacity fully in the near term, along with weaker manufacturing exports.”

The Australian dollar has risen in six of the past seven quarters. Tourism, manufacturing and retail industries have weakened under the currency’s 41 percent rise in the past three years.

Traders are betting there’s a 74 percent chance Stevens will lower rates by a quarter point to 3.5 percent at the next meeting in June, according to swaps data compiled by Bloomberg.

Resource Bonanza

Even after this week’s rate cut, Australia has the highest borrowing costs among major developed nations as Stevens seeks to manage an economy powered by demand from emerging nations including China and India for iron ore, coal and natural gas. Chevron Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Woodside Petroleum Ltd. and ConocoPhillips are among energy companies spending $180 billion to explore and develop gas fields in Australia.

The RBA said the outlook for mining investment has been revised higher since its last statement as its liaison suggested some projects previously seen as “only possible now look more likely to go ahead than had been previously assumed, and that work on some other projects is progressing at least as fast as was expected.”

The central bank said the biggest offshore risk to its forecast is that Europe’s sovereign debt crisis could intensify and derail the upswing in the global economy. Global growth is expected to be 3.5 percent this year and 4 percent next year, it said.

“While the likelihood of that occurring has eased somewhat in recent months, partly because of the actions of authorities in Europe, the situation remains fragile,” the central bank said in the statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Heath in Sydney at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Phang at


Gold Standard for All, From Nuts to Paul Krugman

By Amity Shlaes May 3, 2012 6:01 AM GMT+0700

Nut cases. That’s what they are. And if you take an interest in them, you are a nut case, too.

That’s the consensus among credentialed economists who describe advocates of a return to the monetary regime known as the gold standard. In fact, the economic pack will marginalize you as a weirdo faster than you can say “Jacques Rueff,” if you even raise the topic of monetary policy in relation to gold.

About Amity Shlaes

Amity Shlaes is a senior fellow in economic history at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of the best-sellers "The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression" and "The Greedy Hand: Why Taxes Drive Americans Crazy."

More about Amity Shlaes

An example of such marginalizing appears in a recent issue of the Atlantic magazine. Author Adam Ozimek lists four rules upon which economists overwhelmingly agree. Right away, that puts readers on guard; they don’t want to be the only one to disagree with eminences.

The first rule Ozimek offers is that free trade benefits economies. So obvious. That makes the penalty for disagreement higher. Then you read down to the final principle: “The gold standard is a terrible idea.” By putting the proposition in such strong terms, the author raises the penalty for disagreeing. If you don’t subscribe to this view, you risk both being classed as the kind of genuine nut case who believes in protectionism, and enduring the disdain of other economists -- “all economists,” as the Atlantic headline writer summarized it.

But “all economists” is not the same as “all economies.” The record of gold’s performance in all economies over the past century is not all “terrible.” Especially not in relation to areas that concern us today: growth, inflation or the frequency of bank crises. The problem here may lie not with the gold bugs but with those who work so hard to isolate them.

Gold’s Real Record

Conveniently enough, the gold record happens to have been assembled recently by a highly credentialed team at the Bank of England. In a December 2011 bank report, the authors Oliver Bush, Katie Farrant and Michelle Wright review three eras: the period of a traditional gold standard (1870-1913); the period of a gold-standard variant, the Bretton Woods gold-exchange standard (1948 to 1972); and a period of flexible exchange rates (1972-2008).

The report then looks at annual real growth per capita worldwide, over many nations. Such growth, they find, was stronger in the recent non-gold-standard modern period, averaging an annual increase of 1.8 percent per capita, than in the classical gold-standard period before 1913, when real per- capita gross domestic product increased 1.3 percent annually. Give a point to the gold disdainers.

But the authors also find that in the gold exchange standard years of 1948 to 1972 the world averaged annual per- capita growth of 2.8 percent, higher than the recent gold-free era. The gold exchange standard is a variant of the gold standard. That outcome doesn’t tell you we must go back to the gold exchange standard yesterday. But it does suggest that figuring out how the standard worked might prove a worthy, or at least not a ridiculous, endeavor.

Gold shone in other ways. In a gold-standard regime, money is backed by gold, so it’s impossible, or at least more difficult, for governments to inflate. Naturally the gold standard and Bretton Woods years therefore enjoyed lower rates of inflation compared with the most recent era. The gold standard endures a reputation for causing more banking crises than other monetary regimes. The Bank of England paper suggests gold stabilizes banks: The incidence of banking crises in the non-gold-standard period is higher than the incidence in the two gold periods.

“Overall the gold standard appeared to perform reasonably well against its financial stability and allocative efficiency objectives,” wrote Bush, Farrant and Wright.

Stable Markets

Markets and countries enjoyed relative stability in gold- standard years, and capital in those years flowed to worthy growth-generating projects. The main sacrifice in gold regimes that the authors identify is that governments lose authority to micromanage domestic economies. But given governments’ records, that may not be such a bad thing, either.

It all suggests that contempt for old gold hands such as Congressman Ron Paul of Texas might not be warranted. And that it might be interesting to peruse the numerous gold-related currency plans outside the door of the academic salon. Plenty of people, many former bankers, think it is time to pass laws returning the U.S. to some version, strong or weak, of the gold standard.

Lewis Lehrman, financier and founder of the Gilder-Lehrman Institute, which focuses on history, recently published a plan to take the world back to gold, “The True Gold Standard.” Charles Kadlec, another former Wall Streeter, co-wrote his own proposal, “The 21st Century Gold Standard,” with Ralph Benko. The case for gold as a mandatory metric for the Federal Reserve in setting interest rates is made in new legislation offered by Congressman Kevin Brady, another Republican from Texas. Dozens of state legislatures are introducing their own gold- or silver-related currency legislation.

One reason people slap the nut-case label on others with impunity is that for the past 30 or 40 years most economic education has systematically excluded the gold standard and its exponents from the classroom. It’s easy to call something your professors never respected the work of a nut case. But it’s also worthwhile to ask why the professors white out the gold standard from the books. Perhaps it is because the systems they raved about in their dissertations, systems of flexible exchange rates, subsequently underperformed.

This inconsistency in their own modeling is of course hard to acknowledge. Recently Bloomberg Television drew enormous attention when co-anchor Trish Regan moderated a debate between Ron Paul and Paul Krugman, the Nobel prize-winning New York Times columnist.

Krugman’s Nostalgia

Krugman sought to hold the middle ground, noting that all he sought, through his recommendation that federal debt rise to 130 percent of gross domestic product, was a return to the kind of America in which his parents lived. The professor treated the congressman’s remarks as unscholarly; in a blog post afterward, Krugman wrote “everything Paul said about growth after World War II was wrong.”

But Krugman too has some sorting through to do. The years when his parents lived were gold years, the Bretton Woods gold exchange standard, a time when the federal government, except in world war, would never had considered raising debt to 130 percent of the economy, as Krugman suggested in the debate.

If we are going to speak of consensus, let’s not forget one that is truly universal: Our economic system stands a good chance of breakdown in coming years. The only way to limit damage from such a breakdown is to ready ourselves to choose other models by learning about them now.

Not to do so would be nuts.

(Amity Shlaes is a Bloomberg View columnist and the director of the Four Percent Growth Project at the Bush Institute. The opinions expressed are her own.)

Read more opinion online from Bloomberg View.

Today’s highlights: the View editors on what’s missing from the U.S.-Afghanistan pact and better ways to fix the farm bill; Ezra Klein on how the U.S. isn’t like Greece; Caroline Baum on lack of alternatives to austerity; Ray Ball on pitfalls of mark-to-market accounting; Josh Barro on new arguments for a U.S. value-added tax.

To contact the writer of this article: Amity Shlaes at

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Katy Roberts at


U.S. Stocks Fall on Economic Data Ahead of Jobs Report

By Rita Nazareth - May 4, 2012 3:39 AM GMT+0700

U.S. stocks fell, sending the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index down a second day, amid disappointing service industries data and as investors awaited tomorrow’s jobs report to gauge the pace of growth at the world’s largest economy.

Commodity and technology shares fell the most among 10 S&P 500 groups as Alcoa (AA) Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) slid at least 1.5 percent. General Motors Co. (GM) sank 2.4 percent after earnings tumbled 61 percent. Target Corp. (TGT) lost 2.5 percent as April sales missed projections. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. (GMCR) plunged 48 percent as profit will be less than it expected. Carlyle Group LP advanced 0.2 percent in its first day of trading.

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

May 3 (Bloomberg) -- Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co., talks about the outlook for the U.S. labor market and economy. Feroli speaks with Scarlet Fu on Bloomberg Television's "InBusiness." (Source: Bloomberg)

May 3 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. jobless claims fell by 27,000 to 365,000, lower than forecast, in the week ended April 28 from a revised 392,000 the prior period, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. Meanwhile, productivity fell at a 0.5 percent annual rate after a 1.2 percent gain in the prior three months. Michael McKee and Betty Liu report on Bloomberg Television's "In the Loop." (Source: Bloomberg)

May 3 (Bloomberg) -- Peter Solomon, founder of investment bank Peter J. Solomon Co. and a former vice chairman at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., talks about the outlook for corporate merger and acquisition activity and U.S. employment. Solomon speaks with Betty Liu on Bloomberg Television's "In the Loop." (Source: Bloomberg)

The S&P 500 retreated 0.8 percent to 1,391.57 at 4 p.m. New York time, dropping 1 percent in two days. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 61.98 points, or 0.5 percent, to 13,206.59. The Russell 2000 Index (RTY) of small companies decreased 1.5 percent to 806.59. About 6.9 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, or 3.8 percent above the three-month average.

“It’s a bump in the road,” said Jeffrey Saut, chief investment strategist at Raymond James & Associates in St. Petersburg, Florida. His firm oversees more than $300 billion. “The economic data has turned softer. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the jobs report tomorrow disappoint. All that will do is allow the market to work off its overbought condition.”

The two-day drop in stocks, which pulled the Dow down from a four-year high, came as concern about the economy grew. A measure of forecasting accuracy shows economic data have been worse than predicted. The Citigroup Economic Surprise Index is at minus 24.20, the lowest since September.

160,000 Jobs

Equities fell today as service industries grew at a slower pace than projected in April, a sign the largest part of the economy may struggle to accelerate. The report overshadowed data showing that jobless claims fell to 365,000 in the week ended April 28, a one-month low. The Labor Department may say tomorrow that the U.S. added 160,000 jobs in April, compared with a gain of 120,000 the previous month, according to a Bloomberg survey.

“The jobless claims are good,” Philip Orlando, the New York-based chief equity strategist at Federated Investors Inc., which oversees about $370 billion, said in a phone interview. “This gives us the read-through that May’s jobs numbers are likely going to be better. Yet tomorrow’s report will probably still be consistent with this temporary soft patch.”

Concern about growth also intensified after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said the economic outlook has worsened, adding that policy makers didn’t discuss cutting the benchmark rate below its current record low of 1 percent.

Earnings Season

Today’s decline pared the 2012 rally in the S&P 500 (SPX) to 11 percent. Investors bought stocks this year on better-than- estimated profits. About 71 percent of S&P 500 companies that reported results since the start of the earnings season have beaten projections, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Eight out of 10 groups in the S&P 500 retreated today as commodity shares slumped at least 1.1 percent. The Morgan Stanley Cyclical Index of companies most-tied to the economy slid 1.5 percent. Alcoa dropped 1.5 percent to $9.58. Hewlett- Packard decreased 3.1 percent, the most in the Dow average, to $24.48. Bank of America Corp. (BAC) lost 2 percent to $8.

GM sank 2.4 percent to $22.37. Profit at the largest automaker was affected by widening losses in Europe. The results resemble Ford Motor Co. (F)’s profit as North American income was countered by losses in Europe, as well as a higher tax rate.

Green Mountain plunged 48 percent, the biggest decline ever, to $25.87. It’s seeing more competition from private-label capsules that fit into Keurig machines and from Starbucks Corp. (SBUX), which plans to sell its own single-serve brewer later this year. The company has introduced the Vue coffee machine to help combat rivals when the main patents for its K-Cups expire in September.

Retailers Slump

Retailers in the S&P 500 lost 0.9 percent after companies including Target and Macy’s Inc. (M) posted April same-store sales that trailed analysts’ estimates as an earlier Easter holiday pulled sales into March and cooler weather cut mall traffic.

Target, the second-biggest U.S. discount chain, slid 2.5 percent to $56.55. Macy’s, the second-biggest U.S. department- store chain, rose 0.7 percent to $41.55. Gap Inc. (GPS), the largest U.S. apparel chain, slumped 1.6 percent to $28.67.

Prudential Financial Inc. (PRU) tumbled 10 percent, the most in the S&P 500, to $54.81. The second-biggest U.S. life insurer swung to a first-quarter loss as the value of the company’s derivative contracts fell.

Visa Inc. (V) slid 4.7 percent to $116.41. The world’s biggest payments network disclosed a U.S. antitrust probe into its pricing and strategy for debit-card transactions.

Facebook’s IPO

Facebook Inc. (FB), the most popular social-networking site, is seeking as much as $11.8 billion in its initial public offering, the largest on record for an Internet company. About 337.4 million shares are being sold at $28 to $35 each.

Founded in 2004 and led by 27-year-old Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook has amassed more than 900 million users and reported a 24-fold increase in sales over the past four years. The company’s popularity as a tool for staying connected online will spur demand for the stock, even as some investors steer clear of a valuation they deem too high, said Francis Gaskins, president of researcher

“Some people will buy Facebook stock no matter what -- they’ll just buy it,” said Gaskins, who is based in Marina Del Rey, California. “There’s going to be an initial push of enthusiasm and money, but ultimately, in a year or so, it will come down to valuation metrics. It has to.”

Carlyle Group (CG) rose 0.2 percent to $22.05, trimming a gain of 2.1 percent. It raised $671 million by selling 30.5 million shares at $22 each, according to a statement yesterday. The price for Carlyle, which had offered the shares for $23 to $25, represents a 65 percent discount to rival Blackstone (BX) Group LP.

Hard to Predict

In pricing its IPO, Carlyle sought to avoid the fate of Blackstone, Apollo Global Management LLC and other alternative asset managers, whose stocks have tumbled in public trading. Investors have struggled with how to value private equity firms partly because their earnings are hard to predict, with the bulk coming from buyout funds that sell assets at various times.

“Private equity firms in general struggle with initial public offerings mainly because of the way their business is structured, and Carlyle is no different,” said Tom Murphy, a partner in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP.

Whole Foods Market Inc. (WFM) jumped 7.6 percent to $90.69. The largest U.S. natural-goods grocer posted profit that topped analysts’ estimates on increased demand for organic foods.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A) shareholders missed out on better returns from the S&P 500 by sticking with Chairman Warren Buffett after each of his last three annual meetings.

2012 Gathering

Berkshire fell 2.4 percent from the firm’s April 30, 2011, meeting through yesterday, compared with the 2.8 percent advance in the S&P 500. This year’s gathering, planned for May 5 in Omaha, Nebraska, concludes three years in which Berkshire climbed about 32 percent, trailing the S&P 500’s gain of around 60 percent.

Buffett, 81, is seeking to reassure investors that the $200 billion company he built over 42 years as chief executive officer is positioned to thrive after his eventual departure. Growth slowed in the last 15 years as Buffett, a former hedge fund manager, directed Berkshire’s earnings toward takeovers in industries like machine tools, power production and railroads.

“They’re very steady, but they’re not necessarily fast growers,” Cliff Gallant, an analyst at KBW Inc., said about Berkshire operating units. A “lack of clarity” about Buffett’s successor may also be weighing on the stock, Gallant said. He rates Berkshire “outperform.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rita Nazareth in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Baker at


Zuckerberg Facebook IPO to Make Him Richer Than Ballmer

By Brian Womack and Lee Spears - May 4, 2012 5:07 AM GMT+0700

Facebook Inc. (FB)’s $11.8 billion initial public offering will cement the status of 27-year-old Mark Zuckerberg as one of the world’s richest men and put his social network among the highest-valued companies in the U.S.

Facebook is offering about 337.4 million shares for $28 to $35 each, according to a regulatory filing today. At the upper end of that range, the co-founder’s stake would be $17.6 billion, making him richer than Microsoft Corp.’s Steve Ballmer and Russian steel billionaire Vladimir Lisin, who are both twice his age, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., at Facebook's F8 developers conference in San Francisco. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

May 3 (Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg and investors plan to sell as much as $5.5 billion in stock in the social-network company’s initial public offering. Cory Johnson reports on Bloomberg Television's "Street Smart." (Source: Bloomberg)

Zuckerberg, who began the service for Harvard classmates as a 19-year-old in his dorm room, built Facebook into the most popular social-networking site in the world, topping 900 million users last quarter. Now he has to prove he has the leadership skills to deliver enough growth to justify the company’s valuation, said Paul Saffo, managing director at Discern Analytics in San Francisco.

“The whole story about the Silicon Valley is hard-working, entrepreneurial tech geeks getting big payoffs,” said Saffo, whose firm provides analytics to institutional investors. “The challenge he has is: Can Mark grow as quickly as his company has grown? And can Mark grow faster than his company has grown? Because, of course, that’s what a leader must do.”

Passing MySpace

Zuckerberg, who has developed a reputation for introducing new products quickly, helped the company supplant MySpace as the most popular social service while also navigating competitive threats from Google Inc., Twitter Inc. and other social-media sites. The company has expanded its appeal by enabling developers to build applications on top of the platform, offering users music, movies, e-commerce options and other extras.

“They stayed nimble, like a startup of a smaller size,” said Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst at Altimeter Group. “The culture encouraged them to experiment and innovate on a regular basis, even when they had the lead.”

Facebook is offering 180 million of the shares, while existing owners such as Accel Partners and Digital Sky Technologies are offering 157.4 million shares, according to the filing. Zuckerberg is offering 30.2 million of his 533.8 million shares. The majority of his net proceeds will be used to pay taxes associated with exercising a stock option.

Zuckerberg has shown patience in bringing Facebook to the brink of an IPO. After starting the company in 2004, he rolled it out to other college campuses, reaching 1 million users by the end of the year. Zuckerberg also received a key investment from Peter Thiel, who made much of his wealth as a co-founder of online-payments service PayPal, later sold to EBay Inc.

Opening Up

It wasn’t until 2006 that Zuckerberg opened up the service so anyone could join. Facebook accumulated 12 million users by the end of 2006.

Zuckerberg was able to woo other investors along the way to handle the growing user base. That included software company Microsoft (MSFT), Accel and Russian investor Digital Sky.

Facebook, while preparing for the IPO, has remained active on other fronts. After being sued by Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) in March for patent infringement, the company has been looking to buy intellectual property from other owners of it. Facebook plans to spend $550 million on some of the patents Microsoft had earlier said it would purchase from AOL Inc.

To contact the reporters on this story: Brian Womack in San Francisco at; Lee Spears in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jennifer Sondag at